Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Freezing weather and Ping-Pong

I had mistakenly thought the worst of winter was over. Then came last week, in particular last weekend when I wasn't inside the school protected from the freezing temperatures. These last few days have left me dreaming of green leaves, the smell of flowers, sandals and light jackets, and the energizing feeling of life that comes with the season of spring.

Alas... Until then I have to settle with freezing walks to the subway (but oh, how I appreciate the heated seats on the Seoul metro!), winter coats, long underwear, and the very taxing task of preparing 10 kindergartners to brace the cold. Imagine ten coats, hats and scarves, 20 mittens, usually at least one crying child and worst of all...the damn ZIPPERS that always manage to get stuck and then me in the middle trying to orchestrate the entire show... Let me reiterate my point: I will not be missing the winter coat season once spring rolls around.

"Yeah, we're cute. If only we knew how to put on our own coats..."

Consequently, I decided winter was the perfect time for me to join the ping-pong hall for a month and I've been going for the last two weeks. Ever since Christmas, circa 1990 when a ping-pong table showed up in our basement I've considered ping-pong the only "sport" I'm good at. Now that I'm in Korea I feel confident that it fully qualifies as a sport (not that I ever questioned that fact before). Koreans are decked out in Butterfly brand shirts, shorts, shoes and socks specifically designed for the ping-pong-er and they have serves that involve a series of intricate movements and violent foot-stompings. Plus, a few good games gets your heart rate racing and your shirt soaked in sweat. Sounds like a sport to me.

I was decent at ping-pong back home...How I loved to beat the boys at this game of eye-hand coordination (funny how my coordination fails me when walking though). Korea has since taught me that I know NOTHING about ping-pong. Most everything I thought I knew was wrong: my fronthand, my backhand, my serve and my returns. The Koreans I play with could play me blindfolded and left-handed and still manage to kick my ass without losing a sweat. They are GOOD. Luckily for me, some of that ass-kicking skill is starting to rub off and I think I've started to swing my paddle correctly and return the backhands with the right side of the paddle. I play my best when I'm not thinking of anything. The other games around me become background noise, I'm not concentrating on my technique and you only see the little white ball: rapid ping, pong, ping, pong, and I've entered into the ping-pong "zone".

It's been kind of embarrassing to play Koreans and I'm usually thankful for the language barrier (Although most of them have figured out how to say, "Private lesson", as in "You are in serious need...") I am looking forward to playing my Dad and brother to see if I'm up for the challenge of the "old man ping-pong skills" or facing my competitive little brother. Too bad Dad sold out and traded in for the much-inferior pool table (in my opinion), something I've yet to get over more than 4 years later...

*I apoligize to any readers who are not ping-pong fanatics and were completely bored with this entire post...I won't continue with the ping-pong theme from this point forward...*